Islamic State in Thailand to ‘attack Russian interests’
Leaked document by Thai special branch says 10 Syrians linked to Isis entered country
Thailand’s deputy police spokesman Songpol Wattanachai during a news conference in Bangkok. Police had not received warnings about Isis activity from any other foreign intelligence agency, he told reporters. Photograph: Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Ten Syrians linked to Islamic State entered Thailand in October to attack Russian interests, Thai police said in a leaked document citing information from the Russian Federal Security Service.
In the document, special branch police urged an intensification of security around “target areas that Russian authorities are concerned about”, including venues associated with allies that have taken part in attacks on Islamic State, also known as Isis, in Syria.
Russia began air strikes in Syria on September 30th and has stepped up attacks in recent weeks. An Isis affiliate claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in October, killing all 224 people on board.
Thailand’s special branch, which deals with national security issues, circulated the document to other police units.
Marked “Urgent” and dated November 27th, the special branch police said intelligence from Russia warned that 10 Syrians “related to” Isis entered Thailand between October 15th and October 31st. The document was circulating on social media on Thursday.
“The document is real. We received it from special branch,” said a police officers who handles international crime matters. He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“The original communication was by word of mouth between Russian and Thai police. I don’t know how the document leaked.”
“We’re still trying to work out whether they even came in,” he said, when asked if they could still be in the country.
National security council chief General Thawip Netniyom said security units had been told to be vigilant.
“We have yet to find any unusual movement,” he told reporters. “Everything is safe, rest assured.”
The immigration bureau had found no irregularities among the 21 Syrians who remain in Thailand of the 231 that entered in October, bureau commissioner Nathathorn Prausoontorn told Reuters on Friday.
“There is no information linking them to Islamic State,” he said.
The security council asked the bureau two weeks ago to check on Syrians that had entered since October 1st, he said.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates there are 700 to 1,000 foreign Islamist fighters in the region.
“There is a definite connection between southeast Asia and Syria,” UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas said on Friday, adding Thailand would need to work with its neighbours to deal with the threat.
“It’s very plausible that foreign fighters could transit through Bangkok to and from the Middle East,” he said.
The warning comes three months after a Bangkok bomb attack killed 20 people. Authorities said the blast was in retaliation for a crackdown on human smuggling gangs and declined to label it a militant attack.